The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the twin crises of healthcare unaffordability and inequity. Medical debt is sky-rocketing and affects people of color as much as four times more than white people in these communities: Westchester, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Nassau and Brooklyn. New York charitable not-for-profit hospitals have sued 50,000 New Yorkers in the past five years—4,000 were filed after the pandemic started when courts were mostly closed. Many of these hospitals received more state indigent care pool funds than they provide in hospital financial assistance. Enduring inequities in our healthcare system prevent New York’s communities of color, who are often fearful to seek care for fear of incurring more medical debt and overwhelming complex bills, from accessing the care they need.
The purpose of this workshop is to discuss medical debt and health equity in New York with a special focus on the Patient Medical Debt Protection Act (A3470A/S2521A), which addresses the medical debt crisis by implementing a number of measures that require all the stakeholders to come together and adopt a patient-centered approach to health care costs and medical billing that addresses patients’ needs. The bill would protect millions without adding a penny to the state’s fiscal crisis.